19 May 2016
The map above shows how countries in the Middle East were divided up as a result of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, signed in May of 1916. (photo: Wikipedia)
In America Magazine, CNEWA’s External Affairs Officer, the Rev. Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., takes a close look at an agreement that was signed 100 years ago this week, reshaping the boundaries of the Middle East:
The Sykes-Picot Agreement, one of the most fateful pacts in modern history, was signed 100 years ago on 16 May 1916. It is not an anniversary to be celebrated. An agreement made between Great Britain and France to divide up the Turkish Ottoman Empire after the end of the First World War, it was negotiated by the Englishman Mark Sykes (1879-1919) and the Frenchman François Georges-Picot (1870-1951).
Far from being relegated to Leon Trotsky’s often-cited “dustbin of history,” the Sykes-Picot Agreement has influenced the history of the Middle East for a century, and there is no indication that the influence will dissipate any time soon. The Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, boasted of “the end of Sykes-Picot” when in 2014 the group took control of the Iraq-Syria border — physically removing the posts that marked the internationally recognized boundary. It is impossible to make sense of events in the Middle East today — from the rise of ISIS to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — without an understanding of the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
Read the full story, “Colonial Creations,” at America Magazine.
19 May 2016
Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus care for orphans at the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa. To learn about this orphanage, read Where Every Child Has a Name in the September-October 2001 edition of our magazine. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
19 May 2016
In the video above, a priest from the Pontifical Council Cor Unum explains the pope’s project for refugees in Jordan. Today, Pope Francis spoke to diplomats at the Vatican and encouraged them to work on behalf of migrants and those caring for them. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope to diplomats: do not give in to fear in helping migrants (CNS) While the international community should continue working for peace in war-torn countries, it also must work to help migrants escaping violence and persecution as well as those caring for them, Pope Francis said. In a speech 19 May to six new ambassadors to the Holy See, the pope said that while fears of terrorism and changing a nation’s culture cannot be dismissed lightly, the concerns must “be addressed in an intelligent and creative way so that the rights and needs of all are respected and upheld...”
Search underway for missing EgyptAir flight (CNN) EgyptAir Flight 804 vanished from radar on its way from Paris to Cairo with 66 people aboard, the airline said Thursday. The plane was flying at 37,000 feet when it lost contact overnight above the Mediterranean Sea, the airline tweeted. French President Francois Hollande said he was told the flight crashed, but Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathi said he preferred to classify the flight as missing...
New bishop in India vows to evangelize (Crux) In what could seem simply Vatican business as usual, Pope Francis last month created a new diocese in the Indian state of Odisha and named its first bishop. It’s anything but ordinary, however, because Odisha, formerly known as Orissa, was the setting for the worst anti-Christian pogrom in the early 21st century. In late 2007 and again in the summer of 2008, mobs of radical Hindus left 100 people killed, thousands injured, 300 churches and 6,000 homes destroyed, and 50,000 Christians taking refuge in a nearby forest, where more died of hunger, thirst and snakebite. Bishop Aplinar Senapati of the new diocese of Rayagada says the main thrust of his mission in this battle-scarred territory will be evangelization...
How a 100-year-old agreement made the modern Middle East (America Magazine) The Sykes-Picot Agreement, one of the most fateful pacts in modern history, was signed 100 years ago on 16 May 1916. It is not an anniversary to be celebrated...
The suffering of Syria’s Christians taught him how to be a priest (CNA) Father Rodrigo Miranda is a priest from Chile. But it was in Syria, among the oppressed Christian community, that he learned what it really meant to be a priest. “They wake us up to the essential and important things in life,” he told the Spanish daily ABC. The witness of the persecuted Christians in Syria is “an antidote for the mediocre and decadent world of our societies...”
Metropolitan Tikhon congratulates Patriarch Kiril on DECR anniversary (OCA.org) In a letter dated 17 May 2016, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon offered congratulations to His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow on the 70th Anniversary of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations [DECR]...
18 May 2016
Father Mikhael Khachkalian, the only Armenian Catholic priest in Tbilisi, Georgia sings during the weekly youth liturgy in the tiny chapel of the Armenian Catholic Center in Tbilisi. To learn more about A Firm Faith in Georgia, check out our Spring 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)
18 May 2016
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura lead talks on Syria on 17 May 2016 in Vienna.
(photo: Leonhard Foeger/AFP/Getty Images)
Syria support group wrestles with ending conflict (Voice of America) The International Syria Support Group has stepped up efforts to help stabilize Syria with new provisions that would exclude repeat cease-fire violators from being protected under the cessation of hostilities agreement and would also expand humanitarian air drops into besieged areas. However, challenges remained as the multi-national group wrapped up its meeting in Vienna...
Residents near Gaza border told to prepare for possible evacuations (Newsweek) Israeli authorities have instructed residents of Israel’s southern communities on the Gaza border to prepare for a mass evacuation in the event that another conflict with Palestinian militant groups breaks out this summer. Tensions are increasing on the border, with firefights breaking out between Hamas militants and Israeli forces, as Israel conducts operations to root out the extensive tunnel network in the coastal enclave that has been used to smuggle goods and to launch attacks against Israeli forces...
Pope greets Ukrainian children at audience (Vatican Radio) During this week’s general audience, Pope Francis extended a special greeting to a group of children from Ukraine, who had been brought to the Vatican by the international initiative Children for peace all over the world...
Archbishop to UN: Stop terrorism by winning hearts of the young (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, called for world leaders to “strike terrorism at its very roots and where it must primarily be fought: namely, in the hearts and minds of men and women,” especially the youth, who are at risk of radicalization and recruitment by terrorist groups...
Efforts should focus on rebuilding farmers’ resilience in Ethiopia (The Guardian) This year’s severe El Niño drought has dealt a major blow. The effects have been devastating, as more than 10.2 million Ethiopians require food assistance. Farmers in drought-affected areas have had to watch the crops and livestock that feed their families and produce their income vanish. But there is still cause for hope...
Some Christian refugees in Slovakia ask to return home (Fides) At least twenty of the 149 Iraqi refugees who have been in Slovakia for a few months on the basis of a “selective” welcome program reserved for Christian refugees have decided to return to Iraq. They have explained their choice with nostalgia for their homeland and the difficulties of adapting to the cultural context of the country that had welcomed them. The Iraq returnees, according to local sources, were part of the group of Iraqi Christians from the villages in the Nineveh Plain, who had been forced to leave their homes in August 2014, before the advance of the jihadi militias of the Islamic State...
Kerala damaged after heavy rains (Indian Express) Heavy rains lashed various parts of central and southern districts of Kerala, causing extensive damage in coastal areas. Rains and rough seas caused damage to hundreds of houses in coastal areas in the state capital, Alappuzha and Ernakulam districts, official sources said. Authorities have given directions to evacuate people in low lying areas, where reports of houses being damaged have come in. Relief camps have also been opened to shift the affected people in these areas, they said...
17 May 2016
The Rev. Roy Mathew Vadakkel initiated several construction projects to help the poor in India. In the photo above, he visits one of the projects CNEWA funded, which supplied harvesting tanks for rainwater. (photo: CNEWA)
Four years ago, we interviewed a remarkable Syro-Malabar priest in India who was working tirelessly to care for the poor and the outcast. The Rev. Roy Mathew Vadakkel had launched several construction projects, including one that has built harvesting tanks for rainwater.
Our regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, wrote: “He makes it a point to see that nobody is deserted in the streets or at homes nearby. He feeds and looks after them by collecting help from local residents. Father Vadakkel gets help from everyone, and gives help to everyone, regardless of religion and caste.”
In his interview with us, Father Vadakkel said:
My mother, who died when she was just 46, was a very pious lady, and her great wish was that I should become a priest. She sent me to church every day for Mass. She taught me prayers and showed me by her own actions how to live for the poor and the needy. So I always had the urge to become a priest and to help the poor.
While I was in the major seminary, I used to visit prisoners, beggars, the sick and other forsaken people.
As for his work today:
I want simply to be a source of “hope to the hopeless.” There should not be any person with no one to look after them. I hope to do the most good for the greatest number of people by supporting them — by deeds more than words. Thus each life is to be dignified. As a priest, I have no other option but to dedicate my whole life in service to the poor. As it is said in the Bible, “Wash each other’s feet ... do good ... and be merciful.”
17 May 2016
Five-year-old Battoul al Hassan stands outside her family’s temporary home in Jounieh, Lebanon. Many refugees fleeing the Syrian war are seeking a safe haven in Lebanon. Read more about them in Crossing the Border in the Spring 2013 edition of ONE. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
17 May 2016
Pope Francis talks with Guillaume Goubert and Sébastien Maillard, journalists with the French daily newspaper La Croix, during an exclusive interview at the Vatican on 9 May.
(photo: L’Osservatore Romano/La Croix)
In new interview, Pope Francis speaks of immigration, Islam, other issues (L’Osservatore Romano) Migration, Islam, the laity, France, missionaries, the abuse crisis, the possibility of reintegration of the Lefebvrists into the Church, and the family: these were the main themes which Pope Francis addressed on 9 May in an interview he gave to the French daily “la Croix”...
World powers gather to resume Syria peace talks (Al Jazeera) Senior diplomats from the West and the Middle East are meeting in the Austrian capital Vienna in an effort to salvage efforts to halt Syria’s civil war. John Kerry, US secretary of state, and Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, will chair the meeting on Tuesday. At the gathering, the 17-nation International Syria Support Group (ISSG) will renew its call for a national cessation of hostilities and immediate humanitarian access to besieged communities...
Russians building army base at Syria’s Palmyra site (Stars and Stripes) The Russian military is constructing a new army base in the central Syrian town of Palmyra, within the protected zone that holds the archaeological site listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site without asking for permission from relevant authorities, an American heritage organization and a top Syrian archaeologist said Tuesday...
Ancient church frescoes in Turkey damaged during conversion to mosque (Fides) The ancient Byzantine church of Aghia Sophia in Trabzon, converted into a mosque in 2013, was severely damaged due to the work carried out for its transformation into a Muslim place of worship. This was reported by local sources consulted by Agenzia Fides. Heavy renovation led, among other things, to the destruction of frescoes and the total coverage of mosaics...
Online petition launched to try and stop sanctions against Syrians (Fides) A digital online petition has been launched at change.org, aimed “at MPs and the mayors in every Country’ to ask for “the iniquity of sanctions on Syria to be made known to the citizens of the European Union and become, finally, the subject of a serious debate and consequent resolutions”. This is the initiative launched by a number of bishops, religious and consecrated Catholics belonging to different Churches sui iuris, to ask the European Union to put an end to sanctions still in place against Syria...
After fleeing Ethiopia, some return home to a changed country (The Washington Post) The first time Abezash Tamerat returned to her native Ethiopia, she walked out of the airport terminal’s sliding doors only to turn around and walk right back in, briefly overwhelmed by the press of beggars and taxi drivers clamoring outside. Tamerat had left Ethiopia as a child and grown up in foster care in Georgia. Now she was going back as a 20-year-old to rediscover the far-off, unfamiliar place that had shaped her identity...
16 May 2016
Children in Aiga cherish the biscuits they receive as part of a food program supported by CNEWA in Ethiopia. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Watching hungry schoolchildren in Ethiopia carefully put away one of the two biscuits they received at a food program, Msgr. John Kozar, president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, found the act touching.
He realized they were taking the second biscuit home to share with younger siblings or their mothers.
Alarming levels of hunger, caused by the worst drought in about half a century, has left about 10 percent of all Ethiopians — some 10 million in all — in need of food aid, Msgr. Kozar said in an 11 May telephone interview from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.
When the rains have come, as they did in April as part of the El Niño weather phenomenon that drove the drought, flash flooding has resulted. The most recent floods left at least 50 people dead and nearly 120,000 displaced.
“People in this mountainous, very rural country face enormous challenges,” said Msgr. Kozar, who was on a six-day visit to the country in the Horn of Africa.
Cattle, sheep and other animals essential to people’s livelihoods have been lost in the landslides from the torrential rains, he said.
“It will be many months before there is any yield from newly planted crops,” Msgr. Kozar said. “Three weeks of rain is not going to end this drought or stop its far-reaching and devastating consequences.”
More than 83 percent of Ethiopians live in rural areas, where most rely on rain-fed agriculture.
“The food needs here are critical,” particularly for infants and pregnant and breast-feeding women, he said.
In this parish school, teachers described children who often faint from hunger. CNEWA is supporting a food program here that provides basic nutrition to help the children make it through the day. (photo: John E. Kozar)
On a visit to a “humble parish school with no lighting” in Aiga, where CNEWA runs one of its school food programs, Msgr. Kozar heard from teachers who told him that children often faint from hunger when they arrive for the day’s lessons.
“It’s common for children to walk a one- to three-hour journey on very steep mountainous terrain to get to school and then make the same journey home again,” he said.
About 500 people attended a 9 May funeral in a village church that required a four- to seven-hour walk from remote areas for most of mourners, Msgr. Kozar said.
“And that was just one-way,” he said, recalling that he saw the corpse being carried on the shoulders of men who were walking a long distance along “paths with a terrifying drop.”
Hundreds attended a funeral in a distant village. Many walked hours to get there — a humbling example of the devotion of the Ethiopian people. (photo: John E. Kozar)
The “devotion of the people I have met here, young and old, is incredible,” Msgr. Kozar said.
“The mountainous trails are very dangerous, but still, people come regularly to Mass,” he added. “The Christian tradition is very significant to the lives of the people of Ethiopia.”
About 1 percent of Ethiopia’s population is Catholic, yet the church is the second-largest provider of health and education services, after the government.
CNEWA provides humanitarian aid through the local church, Msgr. Kozar said.
With very few level areas on which to grow crops, Ethiopians plant “potatoes, corn, barley, whatever they can” in terraces on the slopes of mountains.
Ethiopians plant whatever crops they can on the slopes of mountains. (photo: John E. Kozar)
“I am amazed at what people here do with the little they have,” he said, noting that he visited a Catholic agricultural college where subsistence farmers were taught how to improve farming methods and advised on which crops provide good nutrition.
Catholic Relief Services complements the work of CNEWA. Kim Pozniak, CRS communications officer, described the landscape as “apocalyptic, with very little vegetation except dried-out scrub and bushes with thorns the length of my forearm” after an April visit to parts of Ethiopia hardest hit by the drought.
“I saw donkeys that had fallen down dead while their owners were taking them to get water” to carry back home, Pozniak said in a 13 May telephone interview.
Animals are Ethiopians’ “most valuable asset,” Pozniak said, and the drought has forced many families to sell any livestock they have out of desperation to feed their families.
CRS is distributing monthly food rations to 2.8 million Ethiopians, as well as running long-term education and aid and development programs in the country, she said.
In many cases, “we make simple interventions that have a huge impact,” she explained, adding that the agency has introduced savings and loans groups and trained people in water storage so it is available when crops are planted.
16 May 2016
In this image from 2002, men relax at a café in Bourj Hammoud, a suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. For a glimpse at Armenians in the heart of Lebanon, and how residents are trying to preserve their history and identity, read Little Armenia from the July-August 2002 edition of our magazine.
(photo: Armineh Johannes)